Written by Crystal Bradshaw
A relationship is a living, breathing organism that requires attention, nourishment, love, and conversation to flourish. Love is nurtured and grows through daily life; it's through the little moments that take place every day that love is built and emotional connection sustained. In order to protect your relationship for the long haul, make sure you aren't doing these six things!
6 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Relationship Without Even Knowing It
1. You don't have rituals of connection.
Humans are pack animals and we need to feel connected. This connection is extremely vital in our intimate relationships, so don't take your relationship for granted. Make time to connect through rituals. Rituals can include: how you part in the mornings, what you do when you reunite at the end of the day, what dinner time is like, what bedtime is like, and what the weekends are like. When creating a ritual, share with your partner the meaning it has for you and establish how frequently the ritual needs to occur. An example would be having dinner, twice a week, facing each other, and talking with no distractions (phones, TV, computer, etc.).
2. You go to bed distracted or alone.
Using your smart phone or tablet in bed can become a slippery slope. It's one way you rob the relationship of couple time because you are choosing something else over time with your partner; time which typically is limited.
READ: HOW TO CREATE BEDTIME RITUALS THAT WILL NURTURE YOUR MARRIAGE
I recommend keeping technology out of the bedroom. Most of us are connected with technology all day, so when we crawl into bed we need to leave that behind and give our attention to our relationship. If you use your phone as an alarm, then set your phone to Do Not Disturb so you won't be distracted with notifications and texts throughout the night. Studies have found that the light from our devices alters our natural melatonin production and thus negatively impacts our sleep.
It is also important that couples establish a bedtime routine. When partners go to bed at vastly different times (I'm talking hours apart) on a regular basis, that can become erosive to the relationship. When we sleep next to our partner, we have moments of touch and we feel bonded (in neurochemical ways), which aids in restful sleep. Studies show that when couples do not have restful sleep, they are more likely to have conflicts the next day and their ability to interpret their partners emotions diminishes significantly. Simply stated, lack of sleep can lead to fights. So, go to bed together as often as you can, and leave the distractions at the door.
3. You've stopped dating your partner.
Just because you said "I Do," doesn't mean you can stop dating your spouse. I recommend couples have at least 2 dates a month. Set aside a few hours just for the two of you. It can be a day date, night date, an overnight date, or a date in. The point is to make time for just the two of you. Do something different for each date. Try new restaurants, take classes, get lost exploring your own city. Having a planned date builds anticipation, and doing something new invites novelty; both of these elements aid in the bonding experience.
READ: 5 WAYS TO ASK YOUR SPOUSE OUT
4. You have unspoken expectations.
You cannot expect your partner to know what you want at all times. Yes, it is true partners should be able to anticipate each other's needs, like brining you your favorite soup when you are sick with the flu. However, expecting your partner to be a mind reader, and then getting upset when things don't go the way you had planned, is a toxic way to communicate.
You need to be direct. When we have built something up in our mind, but have not shared it with our partner, we set ourselves up for disappointment. This often leads to resentment and anger, and a partner wondering where the bad mood is coming from. Reasons why people may not ask for what they need or want:
When we expect our partners to meet our unvoiced needs, we set them up for failure. So if there is something you want or need, it is your job to tell your partner. Don't sit back and wait for it to happen and then get angry and resentful when it doesn't. You must be an active participant in your relationship.
5. You don't know & use your partner's primary love language & apology language.
Not everyone sends and receives love and apologies the same way. Don't assume your partner is speaking your language in this area; assumptions get relationships off course quickly. One way to discover what your own and your partner's love language is, involves complaints. Consider what you complain about the most within your relationship. For example, if you or your partner often say something like: "We don't cuddle anymore more," or "You don't hold my hand like you use to," or"When was the last time you kissed me?" there's a good chance that physical touch is the primary love language and the complaints are attempts to get more of it.
I encourage couples to take the quiz to discover their own love & apology languages. Share your results with each other. Memorize your partners list and do one thing daily from their top three primary love languages. And when you need to apologize, remember to do so in their primary language so they hear it and it's meaningful to them, even if it feels foreign to you.
Remember, it's not about you but your partner. When we feel understood and heard we feel safe and secure, and this helps build trust and intimacy. As a side note, keep the word, "but" out of an apology. Saying "but," after saying "I'm sorry," negates the apology and your apology becomes an excuse.
You can take the quiz and discover your Love Language here.
You can take the quiz and discover your Apology Language here.
READ: 3 STEPS TO RECONNECT WHEN YOU FEEL DISCONNECTED FROM YOUR PARTNER
6. You're missing your partner's bids for connection.
Bids are attempts to connect emotionally, and they come in many different forms from something as simple as: "How was your day?" to "Can you help me with the trash?" Others types of bids include things like: "Did you see the story on the news about..." "I talked to the neighbor today and..." "Hey, look at this...."
When partners respond to bids positively they "turn towards" each other and strengthen the relationship.
Bids can also be non-verbal. When you walk by your partner and you rub their back as you pass them in the kitchen, or when your partner takes your hand while you two are sitting on the sofa watching TV, these are moments of connection. When bids are ignored, partners may attack or start to pull away emotionally.
It's important to be mindful of bids and to turn towards your partner when they happen.
If you are unable to engage with your partner after they have made a bid, you can simply acknowledge the bid and let them know you heard them.
Example: "Hey, honey, come look at this." "Sorry, I can't right now, but I'll be in there in a few minutes."
This response lets your partner know you heard them and you are interested in engaging with them.
If you miss a bid, you can make a repair attempt. A repair attempt would sound something like this: "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to ignore you a moment ago. I was distracted. What did you want to show me?"
The important thing about bids is that you both are paying attention to the other regardless of the situation or topic. When partners turn against or away from bids for connection they are setting the couple up for emotional disconnection, and bad things happen to relationships when couples are not emotionally engaged with each other.
Your relationship can be a happy and healthy one when you make sure to create rituals of connection, go to bed together, date each other regularly, express your expectations, use love and apology languages, and turn towards your partner's bids for connection.
Photo Credit: Jason Corey Photography
“Marriage is a mosaic you build with your spouse. Millions of tiny moments that create your love story.”
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